OnLive MicroConsole

OnLive MicroConsole is latest gaming device with lot’s of fun.It’s coming on the end of this year ,So gamer what you are waiting ready to grab the OnLive MicroConsole…….

ONLIVE IS MAKING waves talking about streaming games, and some are falling over themselves wondering how the magic happens. It is not magic, has been done many times before, but this is by far the most accomplished version ever shown.

Now that OnLive’s beta is (kind of) out the door — a “bumpy takeoff” as coined by founder Steve Perlman — the company is talking about its future plans. One of those happens to be a piece of hardware dubbed the MicroConsole that’ll serve as the link from the service to your TV.

Publicly unveiled in late March, OnLive bills itself as “the world’s highest performance Games on Demand service.”  They purportedly have the technology to stream games, including the latest high-end game titles to broadband users.

While high-powered, high-price consoles like the PlayStation 3 languish on shelves, Rearden Studios thinks it has a new way to put cutting-edge graphics in the living room of gamers without the expense and hassle: just strip out all the system’s guts. The pocket-sized OnLive Games on Demand device, announced at this year’s Game Developers Conference, has no powerful graphics processor, massive hard drive, or even game discs – everything you need to play comes on demand over a broadband Internet connection.

While a traditional console needs heavy loads of processor power to render all the on-screen action in a game in real-time as you play, the OnLive box will simply send all the player inputs out to its far-away servers, generate all the graphics on the fly, and send them back across the Internet in an extremely compressed form. And according to the company, the entire process will happen in milliseconds, feeling exactly to the player as if it were all being done by the more typical humming box under the TV.

Basically, Onlive took several existing concepts, redid some of the parts for better performance, and put out the most polished package to date. It is something even a console gamer could potentially use, it could really be that simple.

The problem with running games remotely is always latency, if you are driving and turn your car, if the car doesn’t react for three or four seconds, you will eat wall quickly. The generally-assumed latency that a human can perceive is 85ms. Anything less, you probably won’t notice, so that is the bar Onlive has to hurdle

First up, they made a proprietary compression algorithm that they won’t talk much about yet. It compresses things sub-frame, and adds under 1ms of latency. Things are good so far. The lag between controller and computer, basically how long it takes for a button press to register, adds about 5ms more. The killer, ISP latency, it is between 20-50ms if you are on a good link.

The service will run through the OnLive Microconsole and play on a user’s TV, or can be run directly on a Mac or PC.  The founder, Steve Perlman (of WebTV and Apple’s QuickTime), says, “The first patents expire in 2022, so we have at least 11 years to establish our business before there is a clone.“  Understandably, there has been much skepticism about the claims OnLive is making, but with the support of major game powerhouses such as Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, and Atari, and even NVIDIA, it’s clear that this is a serious venture.

That said, the worst ‘official’ case is under 60ms, 75 per cent or so of what you can perceive. So far, so good. Then again, with the Net, there is no such thing as ‘worst’ case, your mileage will vary, especially if you are on a shared connection or a cable modem. We won’t talk about Comcast’s packet shenanigans either, curse their black eyes.

When we get to what we call ‘cruising altitude’ — this is the bumpy takeoff – we can introduce the Microconsole. It’s a walk before you run sorta thing. Frankly, this is the quietest — well, it’s not the quietest, but it’s one of the quieter times of the year for gaming — the fourth quarter is the really big ramp up. So between now and the fourth quarter gives us an opportunity to sort of get our legs underneath us without being at huge risk of disappointing people.

Competing service Gaikai made some news around the launch of the iPad when they got the insanely popular World of Warcraft running on the Apple Tablet. Not to be outdone, Perlman said they were working on a similar service.

The stream itself is then sent over standard TCP/IP to the user. A high rez 720p stream will need a 5Mbps connection, it maxes out at 4Mbps data rate plus ISP marketing safety margin. A standard def stream will only need a 2Mbps link, 1.5Mbps stream plus ISP exaggeration factor.

There are actually two streams sent out at once, the one you play and a higher-rez version. The play stream is adaptive and varies compression and data rates on the fly, based on network transit conditions. The high-rez version is not playable or really interactive, it is meant for ‘brag clips’ or filming of the session. Think of it as what the spectators see on the big screen at a Lan party. It is multicast for efficiency whereas the play stream is unicast.

Additionally, Perlman pointed out that the service is already up and running (for beta users) on “the iPad or on the iPhone as well — or on Android now.” Our full interview with Perelman and OnLive’s Joe Bentley will be up in the coming days.

So between now and the fourth quarter gives us an opportunity to sort of get our legs underneath us without being at huge risk of disappointing people.” When asked to elaborate on whether that meant the Microconsole would be arriving by the end of 2010, Perlman responded. “Oh yeah yeah yeah. They’re working … We have beta users who are using it.

In the end, Onlive has the first end-to-end complete package for streaming games that looks viable. Nothing is particularly new, nothing is particularly exciting, but it is all done seemingly right. Without playing with it under live Net conditions, you can’t say how well it really works, but for now, it looks to be not only functional, but best of breed. Keep an eye on it.


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